Swansea and Port Talbot Docks History

HM Customs & Excise at Swansea Docks

Coat of Arms from the former HM Customs & Excise Office at the Pierhead, Kings Dock, Swansea

Probably the least loved members of the dock fraternity were the staff of HM Customs and Excise who occupied premises at the Pier Head, Kings Dock, Swansea. Prior to 1975 the building was solely occupied by the uniformed members of the service (Waterguard). However, diminishing and changing trade patterns and the UK’s entry into the European Union coupled with departmental re-organisation brought about the demise of other local offices and the transfer of their functions to the Pier Head Office at Swansea. Over the years, offices that closed included Burry Port Harbour; Llanelli North Dock; Custom House, Station Road, Llanelli; Swansea West Pier; Swansea Custom House, Cambrian Place; Landing & Shipping Office (opposite ‘B' shed Kings Dock); Custom House, Eagle Street, Port Talbot, and the Waterguard Office, Pier Head, Port Talbot.

Staff undertook a variety of tasks, both physical and documentary; their primary functions being the collection and protection of revenue and the control of the import and export of prohibited and restricted goods. Their area of responsibility stretched from Carmarthen Quay to Nash Point, including Swansea Airport, together with inland excise control. From time to time officers were required to serve in other locations throughout the United Kingdom.

In addition, agency work was undertaken on behalf of other government departments and public bodies, e.g: Registry of British ships and fishing vessels; Receiver of Wreck; collection of light dues for Trinity House; collection of statistics for balance of trade purposes; CAP (common agricultural policy) monetary payments and refunds relating to the import and export of foodstuffs; issue of 'Pratique’ (Public Health Ships Regulations), and the issue of writs on behalf of the Admiralty Marshall.

In 2005 HM Customs & Excise amalgamated with the Inland Revenue to form HM Revenue & Customs and, although the newly formed department adopted the revenue aspects of the work carried out at the dock, other functions were transferred to the Border Agency, SOCA (Serious & Organised Crime Agency) and MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency).

The Pier Head Office of HM Customs & Excise finally closed its doors in February 2010.

(The above article and photos were kindly provided by former HM Customs & Excise Officer Peter Hopkins)

HM Customs & Excise Office, Pierhead Swansea. The ship entering the lock is the Royal Yacht ‘Britannia’

Waterguard Staff outside the Pierhead Office in 1959. Left to right, rear: Trevor Jenkins, Alan Douglas, Eric Davies and Haydn Edwards. Front: Dick Bartlett, Peter Hopkins

Waterguard Officers Ben Howell (left) and Jim Williamson (right) at Kings Dock Lock in 1959. The ship in the lock is the Federal Steam Navigation Company’s m/t ‘Lincoln’

outside the old Water Guard Office, South Dock. Photo courtesy of the son of Frank Davies, front row left. Front row centre Cyril Davies, front row right Stan Bewen, Back row left Mike Jones.

HMC&E Waterguard dinner dance. at the Mackworth Hotel on 7th December 1959.

L - R back row :- Len Hall, Graham Enoch, Alan Douglas, Rev Jasper (Missions to Seamen), Malcolm Booth, Dick Bartlett, Wyn Symmons, Roley Bickley, Captain J Teunissen (skipper of the mv 'Pieter S', probably one of Swansea's most regular ships in the 50's & 60's and a vessel renowned for it's smuggling activities), Ted Oliver & Norman Taylor.

L - R front row :- Bill Sutton, Fred Hill and Mr Ambrose of Ambrose Davies & Matthews, famous Swansea ship owners and brokers of yore. All the faces named are members of the Waterguard in the South Wales ports except those otherwise described.

HM Customs & Excise Dinner Dance at the Mackworth Hotel, Swansea, on the 24th November 1961

Back row, left to right:- Graham Enoch, Paul Whitmore, Unknown, Frank Davies, Rev. Jasper (Missions to Seamen), Roley Bickley, Alec Miller (Burgess & Co.), Bill Sutton and George Morrison. Front row, left to right:- Dick Jones, R S Hayes (Fultons wine merchants), A W Rolfe and George Shaddick (Burgess & Co.) Unfortunately the ladies cannot be identified.

Les Jones on his wedding day at St. Thomas church c. 1972 – a group of colleagues get him to the church on time

Pictured left to right are:- Fred Bewen, Bryn Jones, Les Jones, Mike Luxton, Frank Davies and Len Scales

Custom House, mid 1980's

Left to right:- Yvonne Jenkins, Nicola Matthews, Pauline Bruce, Cheryl Cart, Joanne Gwynne, Kim Landry and Elaine Farrer.

9th September 2003 - The last members of Swansea Anti-Smuggling Team and honoured ex-members

Back row from left : Dorian Elias, Simon Williams, Ron Woodland, Stuart Delfosse, Graham Reynolds, Kelvin Jones. Front row from left : Stuart Fenton, Phil Thorne, Kim Fenton (nee Landry), Sarah Plumb, Les Jones, Huw Walters.

Chief Preventive officer’s uniform belonging to Swansea’s last serving CPO, Ken Colwill (1972)

HMC&E occupied this watch house at the West Pier Swansea until about 1958, it was situated on the seaward side of the castellated pilot house

Following HMC&E occupancy it was used by a blacksmith and then the Sea Scouts.

The building on the left is the Custom House in Eagle Street, Port Talbot, which also housed Immigration staff. On the right are the offices of the Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company

The above photograph of Port Talbot Docks was taken in the early years of the 20th century. The Customs Waterguard Office, which in later years housed the Port Talbot Small Boat Club, can be seen at the tip of the funnel of the ship in the lock.

Burry Port Dock

The photograph depicts the old Harbour Masters office on the L/H side and the hexagonal Custom House on the R/H side. There was a Customs presence in BP until about the late 1940's and people remember the old CH as a ruin in the early 1950's.

Our thanks to Michael Clement & Gaynor Mills of the Burry Port History Society for this photo.

To see pages from a book dated 1914 showing the Customs staff of Swansea, Port Talbot, Llanelly and Burry Port please click here.